lundi 31 décembre 2012
My Husband:

(photo courtesy of Yahoo!)

I just couldn't resist. A frog on a bright green motorcycle.
(and his name is Oui)

The instant I saw this photo, I burst out laughing. I showed it to Alain, saying "look! it is you! A frog on a green motorcycle!" He didn't think it was quite that funny.

Ah 2012. Goodbye.

January and February- quiet months. Me studying for my exam and Alain preparing for his habilitation.
March - my final exam and Alain's Habilitation, within days of each other.
April - the French presidential election, me voting in France for the first time
May - car troubles
June - another exam, in Paris
July- 14th of July celebration with Alain's sister and her family, my exam results, a last-minute trip to Taiwan for Alain
August- last minute trip to the US for us for three weeks, a much needed break
September - return to work, studying for my oral exam
October- oral exam in Paris
November - nothing of interest
December - holidays

Here are our plans for 2013:
January- nothing
February- nothing
March- nothing
April- nothing
May- hopefully meet up with Mom and Dad when they come over to Europe
June- nothing
July- nothing
August- vacation somewhere in France/Italy
September- nothing
October- re-take my oral exam
November- nothing
December- nothing

So hopefully it will be a quiet year with not too many exams for me.

We are passing some quiet holidays. We went to my in-laws for Christmas Eve, and stayed over. My mother-in-law hosted Christmas dinner. Everyone was there except pepe, who wasn't feeling well.  Manon was feeling sick and was rather out of it, Alain's sister and her husband were stressed because they are renovating their apartment (adding on a mezzanine level under the rafters) and are approaching the final days.

Now, here we are, New Year's Eve. Alain isn't feeling well, he thinks he has a pinched nerve in his lower back. He originally wanted to go out for New Year's (which is something we have never done), but due to our general exhaustedness and his back pain, we are staying in. He spent all day yesterday making ravioli for New Year's dinner, which will be at his aunt's house (the one to whom I gave the LAVANDE cross-stitch). Then, back to work on Wednesday.

Best wishes for 2013!
dimanche 16 décembre 2012
 Here is the other cross-stitch I finished this year, this one is for Alain's Aunt, Lydia. I have now done at least one for every household of Alain's immediate family. Noel for my in-laws, France for meme and pepe, Manon and Anna for his sister's family, and now Lavande for his aunt.

I think this is one of the prettiest ones I have done, especially due to the framing job, again 90€.

mercredi 12 décembre 2012
Yep, it is that time of year again folks.

Time for wives to write up lists of what they would like for Christmas, to give to their floundering husbands.

Alain needs help. Really badly.

Whereas I was able to knock out Christmas shopping for his entire family in an hour and a half, he doesn't know what to get me.

I finally took pity on him and wrote up a list with a few things I would like, as well as things I do not want. ie. do not buy me the one perfume I hate most in the entire world for the third time in a row.

My only problem is, there is not much that I want this year.
We need some big-ticket items, like a new CPU, as well as some un-exciting items, like a hot pot and a steamer, woohoo.

Otherwise, everything that I would like is really expensive (like 200+ € purses or an Ipad) or else really cheap, like a new nail polish color.

What is a girl to do?
mardi 11 décembre 2012
Saturday night I happened to fall upon the Miss France pageant on TV. And then I was sucked into the realm of "This is so lame... I have to watch the entire thing to see who wins..."

I was disappointed by the outfits. Seriously, FRANCE, I expected a whole lot more from you. Let's make their hips look BIGGER!  Let's make them look like they have NO WAIST AT ALL! Besides the Marilyn-swimsuit outfits and the jeweled thing at the end, they were all horrible. I could have designed better outfits.

I wonder how much of the final 12/final 5 is really unknown by the contestants before the announcements. It seems like they would have an idea, at least to have the final outfits that fit and know where to stand during the dances and what dances to do. But let's face it, Dancing with the Stars it is not. The dances are mostly: "Be escorted on stage. Stand in one spot and wave your arms around. When it is your turn to walk down the 'catwalk', stride down, stop at end. Pause. Turn around and walk back to your place. Wait for the other girls to finish. All walk together in two straight lines. Turn around. Walk back. Stop. Look over your shoulder. Wait for applause."

For the outfits, I noticed that some seemed to have lace-up backs, so maybe it really is one-size-fits-all. (not that there is a wide range of sizes to be fit in any case).

I think Miss Tahiti (who ended up second) was the prettiest, but she blew it when she introduced herself and said that she had been modeling since the age of 17 in Paris. I think France (and America too) would want a fresh-faced, rather naive young thing to be their Miss, not some pro. model.

Anyway, the show dragged on FOREVER. Costume change, commercial, another presentation of the final contestants, another opportunity for the folks at home to vote for their favorite candidate, another reminder of "Vote 1 for Miss Pays-de-Loire! Vote 2 for Miss Bretagne!...."

Alain and I had a bet of whether his parents were watching. I said his mother certainly was. He said there was no way his father was watching. We called to check, and were both right. His mom was in the bedroom, watching the pageant on the small tv, and his father was in the living room, watching something else on their main TV.

Another thing I noticed- no Talent competition! Thank god. I think they have gotten rid of that for the Miss America pageant as well, at least the televised portion, right?

Let's see how one goes about becoming Miss France:
1 Pour pouvoir concourir à l’élection de Miss France, il faut être une jeune femme, de nationalité Française de naissance ou naturalisée, être âgée de 18 à 25 ans à la date du 15 novembre de l’année en cours.
2 Les critères physiques sont les suivants : mesurer au minimum 1m70, ne pas avoir d’artifice tendant à transformer son aspect naturel (postiche, perruque, lentilles de couleur, prothèse mammaire…).
Il faut également avoir une silhouette élégante, une démarche gracieuse, des cheveux et ongles entretenus, une tenue vestimentaire soignée.    
3 Il faut être célibataire. Ne pas être divorcée, ni veuve, ni pacsée et ne pas vivre en concubinage, être sans enfant.    
4 Ne pas avoir participé précédemment à aucun concours de beauté similaire autre que ceux patronnés ou organisés par le Comité Miss France, Geneviève et Xavier de Fontenay ou la Société Miss France.    
5 Ne pas avoir de casier judiciaire, avoir une bonne réputation et moralité, une bonne culture générale.    
6 Ne jamais avoir posé ou s’être exhiber dans des tenues ou poses équivoques, partiellement ou totalement dénudée.    
7 L'inscription au concours est gratuite.
La candidate doit d'abord concourir aux différentes élections locales, départementales ou régionales qui la mèneront jusqu’à la finale nationale.
Pour les futures inscriptions, rendez-vous sur le site officiel du Comité Miss France.

Huh. Well, let's see. Too short. Too old. Married.

Dang it. Guess I missed my window of opportunity to be Miss France.

Le Sigh.

Wouldn't it be funny if someone got up there with a really strong accent and said "Hello. My name is ... I am 24 years old and am Miss Provence..."
lundi 10 décembre 2012
Our Nativity scene (one figurine for every year we have been together, which is 9 for those who are counting):
Baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph, all bought the first year in Marseille 2005
The three wise men, bought in 2006
A (lying down) donkey, bought in 2007
(2008, 2009, 2010 nothing, catching up for the previous years)
A camel, bought in 2011 (also lying down, so he doesn't have to "stand up the whole time" according to Alain)

And this year.....(suspense)

An angel!

Previous posts about the Foire:

Every year I set out our Nativity scene, and then we head down to the Foire Aux Santons. We wander around, trying to decide first what type of figurine to add. Shepherd? Sheep? Elephant? (though I'm not really sure elephants were present at the birth of Jesus. But I can't say for sure.)

Once we have decided on the type of figurine, we try and find the one we like the best. Which entails a lot of pushing through hordes of rugrats, and going back and forth between the booths of our final choices, always at opposite ends of the fair. Feel like asking a vendor: Do you mind if I just borrow this angel, so I can compare it side-by-side with an angel by another vendor? No?

We bought some roasted chestnuts, but there didn't seem to be any hot beverages, like mulled wine or hot chocolate. Bummer.

Finally decided on this angel, which was not from the same vendor as any of the other figurines. Oh well.

Came home and set the angel in place. Alain solemnly informed me that I had it wrong: the angel is supposed to be placed right over the crib. Never heard of this before, so I am wondering if it is a French thing.

So there you have it folks.

Next year, I'm holding out for an elephant.

Oh, and this is as far as our Christmas decorating gets.
dimanche 9 décembre 2012
Just finished this custom crosstitch for a Christmas present for my friend's daughter Léa, who is 11 years old. Léa picked out the colors, and wanted bright electric blue. I was a bit hesitant at first, as I wasn't sure how it would look to have the entire dress in bright blue, and also the threads only came in three shades- dark, medium, light, whereas the design calls for at least five shades of the same color. Finally, I mixed one thread of white with one thread of light blue, one thread of light and one thread of medium, one of medium and one of dark, plus light, medium, and dark for six different "shades" of blue.

I then decided on gold as the complementary color and added the gold threads (three shades) and gold metallic thread. Finally, when we were back in the US, I found some blue beads that matched perfectly the blue threads.  Beading is the most painstaking part, it takes days and days, using an "invisible" thread. The design has hundreds of beads on it, of four different colors.

When I was done with the stitching and beading, I gave it to my mother-in-law, who washed and ironed the fabric and then took it to be framed at the usual place. Kinda expensive, 90€, but the woman always knows exactly what matting colors and frame to use. I think it turned out great. I would love to see Lea's face when she receives it, but won't be able to. Kinda sad to see it go, probably won't ever see it again.

PS: For the others of this same series, please see my post:
For the website of the original creator:
jeudi 22 novembre 2012
TGV 6 am from Marseille to Lyon for a two-day conference about the recent caselaw in Europe and France concerning patents. This is conference held every year, one session in Paris (400+ participants) and one session in Lyon (~100 participants). This is the first time I have attended, and it is quite expensive (1000+ for two days, not including travel or hotel).
It is nice, I have met some new people and seen some from my course in Strasbourg two years ago.
But seriously, three and a half straight hours in a cramped conference room without even the space to install my laptop (and thereby actually follow the pages-long decisions), is kinda long. Plus all in rapid French, and even worse after lunch.
Went to dinner with a group of people and suddenly remembered it is Thanksgiving, which is one American holiday that the French are rather intrigued by. Do you give presents on Thanksgiving? No, not usually. What do you eat besides the turkey? Is it always the 22nd of November? Is Friday a holiday too?

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. Sigh. I find it too hard to make here in France. (heck, I would find it too hard to make in the US too). And plus, Alain hates pumpkin pie. How un-american is that?! Jeez.

Joyeux jour de l'action de grace mes amis!!!
lundi 12 novembre 2012
That's right. Fake Macaroni & Cheese powder, people.
Or, real Macaroni & Cheese powder, but not Kraft.
Anyway, good enough for the ex-pat really longing for some comfort food and way better deal than 5$ boxes of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese.

This is great stuff. 100 grams of Macaroni (slightly bigger macaronis than those in the Kraft box, but who am I to complain?), a bit of milk, butter, and three tablespoons of this powder, and there you have it, it's like being back in graduate school again. Or being left home alone while in High School. Or being baby-sat by your older sister.

After my sister went off to college, my mom made me macaroni and cheese and I cried. "I miss my Leah!!"

Alain isn't a fan. He wants real cheese. Geesh!

I usually make it when he is off at the karate class he teaches.
My only (minor) complaint is that sometimes it is has clumps that don't dissolve too easily, but seriously, if you want to raise mini Americans while overseas, you hafta buy this stuff.

ETA: For all those wondering, I think I (or my mom) bought it on (not .fr) and mom brought it over. Amazon won't ship it to France (radioactive?), but the company that makes it will (Barry Farms) will ship to France, but it is expensive. Best to con, I mean convince, someone to bring it over for you.
There are some other cheddar powders out there, but I haven't tried them.
dimanche 11 novembre 2012
It's been almost seven years now since I started this blog.
It started out as a way to share my adventures and mishaps as an American, newly arrived in the south of France. Learning French, visiting the surroundings, getting married, looking for a job, etc.

But I'm not that person anymore. I don't have any frustrating yet amusing stories to share about La Poste. I (pretty much) know French, am married (going on seven years now), work, and don't get out much.

I don't really know what to say. I guess I'll have to try to find the new American in Provence.
vendredi 12 octobre 2012
Only five days left until my oral exam.

I have today (Friday) off (one Friday every two weeks) and I took next Monday off. On Tuesday I am taking the TGV train up to Paris. Thankfully, the exam is in a nicer part of town for once, but more expensive too.

I am "convocated" to arrive at 10 am Wednesday morning to get my subject, then I have an hour and a half to prepare it, then I go in to the trial by fire at 11:30 for 45 minutes of presentation of the subject and questions.

Apparently, the jury consists of three people, from industry, firms, and academia.

I need 8.25 points to pass, out of 20. I calculated the equivalent in the US system, and it works out to a 41.25%. But it isn't really the same. Ten points is considered the average, whereas 50% is failing in the US.

So maybe 8.25 is about a C grade? 

See the things that run through my head instead of just focusing on the exam itself?

The results are supposedly posted relatively quickly, (for France), within a week or two of the last person to pass.

About 1 out of 5 people who is admitted to the oral exam fails.


Right now I am on overload.  The apartment is a complete mess. Piles of clean laundry around that I can't be bothered to put away. Stacks of bills and other important papers to file away in our metal filing boxes.

Ugh. I don't even want to think about it. After. Definitely after.

But truthfully, I think I will feel lost after this exam is over. Five years of non-stop studying and exams, and then, nothing? (Preceeded by grade school, middle school, high school, undergraduate, graduate, even French courses for goodness sake.) It's rather a shock to the system.

Alain says I need to take a break. Just focus on doing my job. Living. Enjoying weekends. What's that you say?

samedi 29 septembre 2012
When we moved into this apartment, six years ago in November, we immediately started looking for a garage or parking space to rent. Parking is on the street, mostly free parking but some areas with meters, and most buildings have inner courtyards with several spots available.

I set aside a savings fund "for garage" and every month we put some savings into it.

We checked the online listings and local real estate offices. Nothing doing. I set up online alerts that would email me whenever a spot was listed in our area code, but they were never nearby (and of course, my email address now gets spam for new apartment building programs).

Some spots are to rent, but we decided we didn't want to rent a place for 100+ euros a month. I am able to usually find a closer spot on the street, with varying degrees of legality:
 - completely legal ( a bona fide spot)
- sorta legal (on a crosswalk) can probably get away with it for a short period of time, like overnight
- sorta illegal (a second driving lane that gets converted to parking) probably gonna get a ticket if the cops come by
- completely illegal (blocking someone's garage, gonna get towed).

I can usually find a sorta legal or sorta illegal spot, and sometimes get lucky with a completely legal spot. Certain areas of Marseille, the older areas, are worse, ranging from completely illegal to sorta illegal spots only.

Anyway, the years passed, I got used to searching for parking and knew the best places to look for a spot, where I probably wouldn't get a ticket. I got a ticket about once every three months, which at 35€ a ticket is a better deal than 100+ € a month for a parking spot (and further away).
Our garage savings fund got re-entitled "house" and we resigned ourselves to our parking fate. Alain of course has no problem, he parks his motorcycle on the sidewalk, but he too would like a covered space, with limited access.

And then, suddenly, one of the talkative elderly people that live in this area (they like to talk to Alain, sometimes they keep him for half an hour while I'm waiting with dinner, but that is another story), informed Alain that one of their neighbors was selling his garage in the inner courtyard of their building. The garage is 10 meters square, just enough for the car, not a car + motorcycle, and the person was asking 23,000€ for it. It seems a lot, but it is sadly the going price in this area.

The elderly person told Alain that they would give him the name and the number of the guy selling it.

Alain and I talked it over and decided that though it would put us back about a year in our plans to buy a house, that it was worth it. This area might well become more congested, the city might decide to put up more parking meters, etc. We could always rent the parking space with the apartment when we decide to buy a house and rent this apartment. Plus, it would be an added bonus for anyone wanting to rent.

Anyway, we waited and waited for the name and the number. When we finally got the number, I called the guy, and it was sold. Argh!!!!

So, there you have it. I am a bit frustrated that we lost out on it, but also glad we didn't have to make the decision. It would have cost us about 25,000 in total, including the lawyer's fee, plus our taxes would go up (a few hundred euros a year).

Back to searching for parking spots after a long day of work.
dimanche 23 septembre 2012
At the end of July, I reserved one night in a hotel in Manosque, a village in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence region, about an hour northeast of Marseille. We went on his motorcycle, me with a backpack carrying all our stuff for two days.

In Manosque, we stopped by the L'Occitane factory, museum, and gift shop. We took the tour, got some free samples, and bought a few items but not too much as we were traveling light.
Afterwards, we checked in to our hotel, and went for lunch in Manosque, in the city center.

An afternoon nap, then we took his motorcycle to Forcalquier, "crowned by a ruined casted and domed chapel of the 19th century Notre-Dame-de-Provence, Forcalquier is an intriguing shadow of its former self."

A long steep walk to the top of the hill, but the views were amazing. We walked back down and had a drink in the old town, then drove back to Manosque. We had dinner in town again, and as it was a Friday night, it was quite lively. There were several bands playing and tons of people. We shared a bottle of red wine, and were a bit tipsy by the end of the night.

Saturday morning was market day, and the parking area was packed. We had a light breakfast in the center of town, then checked out of our hotel and hopped on his motorcycle. We headed east, towards Valensole, hoping to see fields of lavendar. We saw fields, but I guess the lavendar had already been picked. We then headed towards Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, a town on the side of a hill and known for its ceramics. We walked around a bit, including up to a cave with religious relics inside, then had lunch at a restaurant perched above a river running down from the mountains through the town. We hoped to do the tour around the Gorges du Verdon, but didn't have enough time. We drove by a picnic/boating area and stopped for a bit, but it was hot and we didn't have our swimsuits with us. We then headed back to Marseille, by the small departmental roads, winding through various small towns. We got back to Marseille just in time for pizza and a movie night, thank goodness!

We had a great trip and enjoyed seeing an area we had never seen before, as up until now, we have visited mainly the Bouches-du-Rhone area, the Vaucluse, and Nimes.   

samedi 22 septembre 2012
After a very long hiatus, I am back.

I was frustrated with my blog template (the header being messed up) and just overwhelmed in general, but after three weeks of vacation in the US, ready to start updating again.

Will be posting some photos and stories from our trip soon.

In the meantime, I just found out that I passed the first part (the written exam) of the 2-day exam in Paris at the end of June. Now I have to take the oral part, which will be October 18th or so, again in Paris.
If I pass this test, I will be done with courses and testing for at least a few months.

Or maybe a few years.
mercredi 18 juillet 2012
Apologies for the inspirational quotes from pop songs, but....
Hell yeah.
Four and a half years of work, countless nights and weekends studying, trips back and forth to Strasbourg, Paris, hours and hours of exams, and it all comes down to this.
Got a mass email last week from the European Patent Office that the results would be released today, July 18th. Usually it is the beginning of August, so it was much earlier this year, perhaps because they instituted a pre-qualifying exam (an exam that you must pass in order to be admitted to the main exam, whoopee).

The results are posted in a PDF file on their website, with the scores listed by numbers assigned to each candidate.

Dreamt last night that I was frantically searching for my results, the numbers were all out of order, and I couldn't find them...

So only one exam-result anxiety dream this year, which is an improvement over last year, when I had at least five.

Woke up this morning before 6 and logged on to the website. Nothing yet.
8 am: Refresh. Refresh. Refresh. Damn it, when are they going to post it?
8:30 am: Check the forum. No comments yet. What the hell is taking so long? They posted them around 8:30 last year.


The results are posted!!! Quick download the PDF file, type in my ID number, hit search.
Please Lord, Please Lord, Please Lord, let me have at least a 45. I'll be happy with a 45.
(out of 100, not too shabby)
lundi 16 juillet 2012
Saturday morning, we watched the parade in Paris on tv, and then in the afternoon we drove to Toulon.
Our brother-in-law, Nicolas, is in the French Army. He was required to march in the Toulonais parade, and asked if we would like to come and see it.
We figured it was a good opportunity to get out of the house, see Lucie (Alain's sister) and one of their two rugrats (Anna - well into the terrible three's). The other, Manon almost 9, had left for camp for three weeks.

I was afraid that the autoroute would be packed with people on their way to the Côte d'Azur for the holidays, but it wasn't too bad. In about an hour we had arrived. Nicolas had warned us that the center of the city would be blocked off, so we took a detour, which was a bit backed-up, but made it finally around 4. Nicolas had already left, to pick up his rifle, be inspected, and practice.   His parents were visiting as well.

A little after five we hopped a bus downtown. We walked past the troops in rank and order (mainly Navy, as Toulon has a semi-large Naval base). The poor men and women had been standing out there for at least an hour.

On the shady side of the street, but still. Having spent many hours in parades myself, I definitely sympathized. We found Nicolas, and Anna (atop his father's shoulders) screamed Papa! and kept trying to get him to wave. He kinda blinked and wiggled his eyebrows in response. We found an area with a good view, and waited, thinking the parade would start at 6. Wrongo.

The boring inaudible speeches and medal-giving started at 6, with the parade starting at 7. This was a bit (okay, way) too long for Anna, who kept complaining that her stomach hurt, and Caca! (the equivalent of Poopoo!) as loud as possible. Lucie took her to the bathroom three times, but boredom was the main problem.
The parade started a bit after 7 and took all of 15 minutes. The troops marched by, followed by lots and lots of firetrucks. I am convinced that no National celebration is complete without firetrucks. Whether we are talking small town Colorado or Paris, France, the firetrucks must be present.

After the parade was over, everyone cleared out pretty quickly. We walked back to the bus stop, and waited. And waited. We must have waited at least half an hour for the damn bus. I was all for taking a taxi, since it was about 5 minutes away by car, but the others vetoed me. Hey, after 2 hours of standing and the prospect of not being able to fit on the bus even when it comes by....

By the time we got back to the apartment, Nicolas had already boarded the bus back to the base, checked in his equipment, and driven back to Toulon. We ordered some pizzas, and chowed down. Alain and I left a bit after 10, and saw some fireworks from the car on the way back.

Happy four (teenth) of July!
vendredi 13 juillet 2012
On Thursday, I woke up at my usual time of 6:15 to go to work. There was a faint smell of smoke, but as we had the windows open, I figured it was coming from outside, perhaps someone burning leaves (in July?) or some sort of construction work.
There was some noise coming from the building entrance level, but it sounded like construction workers, yelling at each other and using power tools.
Oh great, another group of uncaring renovators who start work at 6 am, like the ones who blasted music and used power tools at 10 pm a few years ago.
I got ready for work, and took the elevator down to the street level. The smell of smoke was stronger, and when I opened the elevator door, found myself face to face with a fireman, in his gear. It was a bit hazy, but no flames or anything. I asked what him what was going on, and he said that the pizzeria on the street level beneath us caught fire, that they must not have extinguished the oven correctly. Oh fantastic.
I went outside, and there were quite a few firetrucks parked on the street and some smoke billowing out of the front of the pizzeria.
Mind you, this is the second time the pizzeria has caught on fire. Once before we moved in, and now this.
I am not in the mood to die in a fire during my sleep because some stupid pizzaiolos forgot that a "wood burning" oven is actually "burning wood".
Plus, we don't even get our pizzas from them.
In fact, all we get from them is loud music at 9 am on Sunday mornings and precious parking space taken up by their delivery boy scooters.
So, I am not too sad. Nobody was hurt, and I am not sure how extensive the damage is. It was closed for business yesterday, with just a stack of charred wood on the sidewalk. Perhaps they will find another location. Or the syndicate will order them to move out.
Time to install the smoke detectors in our apartment. Which reminds me that though the building has fire extinguishers, there is no general fire alarm system, even though I suggested one be installed at the general meeting a few years ago.
But no, what are dues spent on? A half-hearted entryway/stairwell cleaning every two weeks.
At least I saw some cute firemen on my way to work. That helped.
dimanche 24 juin 2012
On Tuesday, I am returning to Paris for yet another exam. This time, it is the French Qualifying Exam. It is held once a year, and consists of two written exams, followed by an oral exam if you pass the written.

So next week, I have the first exam, five hours, on Wednesday. It consists of drafting the claims and introduction of a patent application based on a letter from a client explaining their invention, as well as some documents as "prior art".
I am tempted to just do it in English, as the rules don't say that it has to be in French, and patent applications can be filed in English now.
But then, it is never a good idea to annoy the correctors;

The second exam, also five hours, is on Thursday. It consists of a letter from a client, and generally concerns a competitor who has accused the client of infringement of one of their patents. so you must study the validity of the patent, give advice as to whether or not you think they are infringing, and then what to do.

The oral exam is mid-October. True to French form, the results of the written exam are given about a month before the orals. The oral exam is "limited" to 45 minutes. As far as I have been able to gather, you are given a topic and have an hour or so to prepare, then you go in and expose the topic and your solution, and then they can ask you questions on that and anything else. Yippee.

If I pass the European exam (that I took in March), I can be exempted from the first written exam. But I won't know about that until the end of July/beginning of August, so it wouldn't be good for this year anyway. Some people wonder why I don't just wait until next year and take only the second exam (assuming I have passed the european exam). I want to at least try the first exam, and see how I do.

Each written exam is graded out of 20 points, and you have to have an average of 10/20 for both exams (so you could have 8 on one and 12 on the other for example) but a note of 7 or less is eliminatory.
If you take both the written exams, the oral exam has a coefficient of 2, but if you are exempted from the first exam (due to already being a European Patent Attorney), they assign you 10 points for that exam, and the oral exam has a coefficient of 1.

So it is advantageous if you are not very good at drafting patent applications nor oral exams, but disadvantageous if you are good at drafting patent applications and oral exams.

Got that?
It is almost as convoluted (but not quite), as the reglementation for the CEIPI exam in Strasbourg, that I took back in 2010:

Anyway, wish me luck!
lundi 11 juin 2012
Sunday morning, Alain and I returned to vote for the first round of the Legislative elections.

Geez French, how long do you have to drag this process along for?

Presidential campaigning, first round, more campaigning, second round, change of power, campaigning for the Legislative elections along with the flyers "I have (Presdential candidate's) support!", first round, more campaigning, second round.

From a 30 minute wait for the first round of the presidential election, to 10 minutes for the second round, to 0 minutes for the first round of the Legislatives, it seems like turn out is becoming less and less. Well duh. Want high turnout for the legislative election? How about holding it ON THE SAME DAY as the presidential election?

But French seem to have a need to know how the presidential election turned out before voting for the legislature.

One day, I swear I'm gonna buy a book "French government for dummies".

But still, I don't reckon it is any more difficult than trying to explain the US Electoral College. Uh, well, you see, each state has a certain number of electors, and they are supposed to vote according to the winning popular vote, but they are not obligated to, except for in some states, and uh, well Wikipedia it.

samedi 26 mai 2012
Six years of wedded bliss, as of today. The above picture was for our thank-you cards.
vendredi 25 mai 2012
Happy birthday to the best dad ever!

Here is a picture of us, I must have been about 16 (the date on the photo is wrong). They brought me out East to visit some colleges, but I was dead set on the Naval Academy and barely wanted to consider any other options. Go figure.

Anyway, Happy Birthday dad!
samedi 19 mai 2012
One of my more embarrassing moments from High School was when I decided to take part in a regional spelling contest. I think I was a Sophomore, or maybe a Junior.

I spent a couple of weeks reviewing lists of words, and one Saturday, my Civics teacher drove me and another girl Erin down to another High School in Colorado Springs where the competition was being held. We formed a team, so first one of us would spell a word, then the next round the other one would.

We got there, and there weren't many people. Spelling contests aren't the most popular thing in town I guess. There were maybe five other teams.

We sat up on stage, with our teacher in the audience. The person in charge explained the rules. You could repeat the word out loud, but once you started to spell, if you made a mistake you couldn't go back and fix it.

I went first. The word I received was seedling.

I repeated it a few times.

"Seedling. Seedling. See - I mean Ess -e -e -d -l- -i -n -g"

Nope. It was over. Just like that. We were finished. First word, first round. I was so embarrassed. Poor Erin never even got a chance.

The winning word was something like "spinach". Give me a break.

Sigh. So that was my brief attempt at spelling contests.

The end.
dimanche 13 mai 2012
On Thursday, the garage informed me that my car was finished.
(The other garagist never even bothered to call)

I picked it up after work, 775€ poorer. Ouch. Hopefully, she will hang on for another couple of years.
I then drove it over to the parking garage, where I have a monthly pass, and had parked my in-law's car that morning. I parked our car outside, went in, fetched the other car, drove it out of the garage, parked it, then drove in our car and parked it.

I then drove the other car to my in-law's, taking the expressway, 1.80€, rather than the windy evening-commute clogged roads. I filled it up with gas, and parked it at my in-law's.
Alain met me there on his motorcyle straight from work. We stayed for a few minutes discussing with his parents, then left on his motorcycle. I had brought my motorcycle jacket and helmet in the car with me that morning. We drove back to Aix on the expressway, and I directed him to the parking garage. I then went in and got our car, then I drove home from Aix in our car, and Alain drove home on his motorcycle.

So now we have our car back, and are out about 900€ taking into account the parking, gas for my in-law's car, and the repairs.
I took it out of my Renault Mégane savings.
dimanche 6 mai 2012
I should have stayed in bed Thursday.

Our car has been making noise for awhile now, and we haven't been able to take to the garage. Well, in our defense, it has been a perma-vacation for the mechanics in the South of France for the past month.

Anyway, we took it in for a Contrôle Technique, which is a review of the car that is obligatory every two years. We actually didn't need to take it yet, but we wanted a rather unbiased opinion of what was wrong from someone who makes no money in forcing expensive repairs on you. We were told nothing major, but perhaps the power steering needed some work. Indeed, whenever I turned the steering wheel sharply, like to park, it made noise.

Anyway, the mechanic near my work finally opened back up two weeks ago, so I had him look over the car. He said he would call me when he had an opening, surely by the end of the week. Stupid me, I waited, and waited, and waited. Finally, this last Wednesday I called to see what was up. He had lost my number and said to bring it in this morning. Okay, great.

Before leaving for work Thursday morning, I got a call. He said he couldn't take it that morning, could I come in tomorrow (Friday)? Okay, fine for tomorrow.
Except, when driving to work on the highway, not okay!
The battery light kept coming on and off, and then for awhile the exhaust pipe started smoking. The electricity seemed to be coming in and out (trouble opening and closing the windows). I went slowly, and when I got near Aix, a knocking sound started.

I called the mechanic again, begging him to fit me in today. He kept asking "tomorrow isn't okay?" NO tomorrow is not okay. I waited for a week for you to call, and now look at the situation I am in.
He said to call back around noon.

The power steering went out, and I could barely park it in the parking garage. As I was backing in to a spot, I heard a bang!
I managed to park, raised the hood, and looked inside.
But who am I kidding? I have no idea what could be wrong, unless some tube starts spurting liquid.
I then noticed a big round metal circle on the floor, right where the car had been before I had backed up. This is not good.

I picked it up and put it in the car, getting extremely dirty in the process. I managed to stain my white fuzzy shrug (and also got mashed banana in the lining of my purse - not a good day).

I went to work and called again around noon. No answer. I decided to try and move the car, as well as to take a picture of the mysterious part and get my parking pass, as I knew we would have to borrow my in-law's car.
I managed to move the car out of the parking garage, at a slow pace, and park it across from the garage; (Nine euros a day, thanks so much).

I called again, leaving a message that the car was now across from the garage, and I would bring it in Friday morning.

No reponse. I called my in-laws, explained the problem, and as luck would have it, they were coming to Aix that afternoon for a doctor's appointment. After work, I walked over to the clinic and met them. They drove me back to their house, and I took their second vehicle, a Fiat Panda (like a car, only smaller).

Otherwise, I would have had to take the train back to Marseille, the subway home, then Alain and I would have to go out to their house on Alain's motorcycle, then I drive back in the car and he on his motorcycle.
I showed Jacques and Josée the picture, and they had no idea what it was. They also described it to Nicolas, my brother-in-law, who is a mechanic for the Army. He had no idea either. I would publish it here but can't seem to get it off my phone.

Anyway, Friday morning, I parked Josée's car in the parking garage, and went to wait for the mechanic at 7:45 a.m. like he said. And waited. And waited.

I left a not so nice message on his machine, paid another 9€ for Friday's parking, and went to work. I called another garage nearby and got an appointment for Wednesday morning. The other garage seems more professional, asking what type of car, what seems to be the problem. Um, parts falling off? Everyone keeps asking if I am sure that the part came from the car, and whether I picked it up and kept it.
1) Fairly certain due to the loud bang and that it was exactly where the car was
2) Do I really look that dumb? No, I decided to just leave it there in the middle of the floor as it obviously is unimportant and inexpensive.

Anyway, Friday night before leaving work, I again paid for Saturday's parking. Hopefully I will only have to pay for one more day, Monday, as Tuesday is a holiday.

Also, here's hoping that I can get it the 500 meters to the other garage, that they are open and haven't just decided to take vacation, and that the repairs aren't more expensive than the car is worth. It is over ten years old, and has 218K kilometers, so I am leaning towards getting a less-old car if it will cost us more than 500€ or so, but Alain disagrees.
mardi 1 mai 2012
When I was going up to Strasbourg (2009-2010) on a regular basis, Alain bought a poker chip set and hosted several poker nights while I was away. Since then, the guys from his lab get together every few months or so. I have gone a few times, but it is usually on a work night, so we leave around 10:30 or so.

As it was our turn to host again, I suggested either Saturday night or Monday night, as today, May Day, is off. I wanted some time to straighten up the apartment, and not have work the next day, as I knew they wouldn't be leaving at 10:30.
(Let's go to bed so these nice people can go home)

We spent Saturday and Sunday straightening up, and bought chips, pretzels, sodas, beers, the works. About half of the guys who come are Muslim, so they don't drink beer.

Monday night I arrived home from work a bit before 7, so I prepared the tables, got out the extra chairs and cushions, and waited for their arrival.
Khalid, Alain's colleague, was the first to arrive. Alain's cousin Jérome then arrived and bought some PhD students from Alain's lab with him.
Khalid then realized he forgot to bring the poker chips and cards (last time, poker night was at his house). Whoops. Kinda hard to play without all that.
He didn't want to lose his parking spot, so he managed to convince Alain to go to his apartment on motorcycle, get the poker set, and bring it back.
So Alain took off, leaving me to entertain. We ordered pizzas, also not so easy in France in the company of Muslims, as they don't eat ham which includes about half of all pizza varieties. We finally settled on Norvegienne (salmon), Tartiflette (potatoes, onions, reblochon cheese, and normally ham but we asked that to be left off), provençale (mozzarella, tomatoes, Parmesan, garlic, and parsley), and Spécial Cissou (mushrooms, Roquefort, mozzarella, and egg).

Alain returned with the poker set, and we started to play. We don't play for money, just chips. The entire set of chips was divided out evenly amongst us. I won a few hands, which is rare for me.
About an hour later, everyone was wondering where the pizza was. I called, and they said they were running behind. Perfect. I've got 7 hungry guys playing poker in my apartment.

Another 30 minutes, and the pizzas arrived. Alain opened them up and starting cutting. When he got to the Spécial Cissou, he said "oh no! Look what they did to our pizza!" It was all crumpled up, like it got tipped over during the transport. In fact, it was a chausson (calçone). We started doling out the pizza slices, using the plastic plates left over from Alain's habilitation in March. This was actually an improvement over previous poker nights, when they just ripped up the covers of the pizza boxes to use as plates.

We kept playing and around 11:30 our buzzer rang. We looked in the hallway, but there was nobody. I guess it was someone down in the street. Either it was a passer bye who was just causing trouble ringing doorbells late at night, or more likely one of our neighbors complaining about the noise. Seriously?
Sure, the guys were talking loud, but
1) it isn't like we have people over every week
2) there was no music playing, and

most of all:

Don't even have the courage to knock on our door and say "can you please keep it down"? Then screw you.

Anyway, we continued playing. Some people started getting large piles of chips, as others slowly dropped out. I was the fifth to drop out, followed by Alain. It was then between Khalid and Frédérico, with higher and higher stakes. Khalid finally won it all and everyone left, a bit before 1 a.m.

it was fun, but I was glad to not have to get up at 6 to go to work.

Happy May Day!
dimanche 22 avril 2012
I have to confess something:

I am not entirely sure why, but whenever I vote in person (as opposed to mail-in) I get all choked up. It happened when I voted in the US in 2004 (went back to my car and cried) and it happened this time.

A few weeks ago, both Alain and I received packets containing every candidate's flyer and ten slips of paper, one with each candidate's name on it. Instead of having one paper with all the names and you select one, you get all the names and put the one you want in the envelope.

The flyers were interesting- set forth each candidate's campaign. I spent a few nights reading them all and making my choice. We also received our electoral cards, with the name and address of where we are supposed to vote, and our name and address.

Our voting place was the local high school, a few blocks away. I wasn't sure what time it opened, as it wasn't listed on the card. I wanted to go right away when we woke up this morning, but we went running first, had our coffee and croissants, then headed on over around 11. There were actually two voting rooms in the high school. We waited about ten minutes before getting into the voting room, where you could take the slips of paper if you hadn't brought yours with you. Technically, you are supposed to take all slips with you behind the curtain, not just the slip corresponding to the candidate you wish to vote for.

I went behind the curtain and the tears started. I had warned Alain beforehand that I might cry.
I selected my candidate and came on out, waiting in another line, about twenty minutes this time, before getting to the ballot box. I handed the woman my passport and electoral card, she uncovered the hole for the box, I slipped in my envelope, and she said "A voté!" I then signed my name and they stamped my card, and that is it until the next round.

Some people were complaining about the wait, but seriously? 30 minutes is too long every five years? 30 minutes is long, I grant you, when standing in line at McDonalds with screaming children popping balloons all over the place, but really, it wasn't that bad. I thought the wait would be much longer as we are in the city and went late in the morning.

So that is that. Now we wait to hear which two candidates advance to the next round, in two weeks.

lundi 9 avril 2012
Leading up to France's presidential election in a few weeks, one of the candidates announced the possibility of giving foreigners in France the right to vote at local elections. This of course, has caused an uproar and probably won't be passed.

I am sure many Americans would be against a similar measure in the US.

Initially, I wasn't sure how I feel about it, either in France or in the US. I can see that the right to vote is one of the fundamental privileges of citizenship. That and perhaps running for elected office. Because really, pretty much everything else you can do (at least in the US and France) as a foreigner. Buy property, get a driver's license, open a bank account, get a job, get thrown in jail if you break the law, heck even join the armed forces if you want.

Having citizenship might make the above easier, less hoops to jump through, but still, no huge advantages, other than perhaps going through the citizens line at immigration rather than the foreigners line.

But yesterday, at Easter meal, Alain's aunt asked my opinion on it.

I admitted that I wasn't sure how I felt about it. On the one hand, I can see how citizens would be against it, and that my initial reaction would be against it in the US. What, illegal immigrants getting to vote!?

But having lived as a foreigner in France until just recently (and honestly, still feeling like a foreigner) I feel that:
- I have a job
- I pay taxes (oh boy, do I)
- I have to obey the laws
- I have stood for hours in line at the Prefecture to get this card or that card
- If we had tadpoles, they would be in day care or school
- We own property and pay our mortgage

And let's face it, France does not make it easy for foreigners to be in a regularized situation. Plus, to get my nationality, what did I have to do? Take a test on France's history? Have a discussion about Liberté, Fraternité, Egalité? Heck no!
- Prove that we have paid all our taxes for the past three years
- Show that I have a full-time job
- Prove that we pay our mortgage in full every month
- Show my educational level
- Supply a copy of my police record from the US
- List my parents and siblings
- Provide notarized copies of my parent's and my birth certificates

What about poor foreigners from less-developed countries who don't have a higher education degree? Who can't find a job? Who don't pay any taxes?

Do you really think France is bending over backwards to give them citizenship so that they can vote?

No way. Sure, they might eventually get their citizenship, but they certainly aren't on the expedited track.

A few years ago I received a ballot to vote for the judges of the Prud'hommes tribunal, a sort-of court that deals with disputes between employers and employees. I was surprised, but Alain said that as I had a job in France, I had the right to vote for the court.

So hell, I can pay my taxes but I can't vote for the mayor of Marseille? Give me a break.

They are happy to take my money but I can't express my opinion about school funding (on behalf of my kids, who would be themselves mini French?), whether a new bypass should be built so that the traffic in front of our apartment is reduced, and all the rest?

When you think about it, most people are affected every day by decisions made at the local level. Schools, roads, police force, hospitals, firemen, building of a new bypass road for the nearby autoroute, etc. The big issues- death penalty, abortion, euthanasia, don't affect most of us regularly.

After having thought this over, I think that foreigners who are permanent residents (i.e. not just students, or temporary-stay workers) should be able to vote at the local level. This is of course assuming they are legally in the country, and do everything they need to do, such as pay taxes if they have a job, aren't in legal trouble, etc. If they are getting financial assistance, then I think they should still be able to vote because hell, enough citizens are getting assistance anyway. And you can't very fairly draw the line at "permanent residents who have a job and pay their taxes".

After this discussion with Lydia, she did admit that she saw my point and it was something to reflect on, as it was the one point holding her back from voting for said candidate.

What about you? Do you think foreigners should be able to vote? At what level? Under what conditions?
vendredi 16 mars 2012

It is Anna's third birthday soon, and as all kids are, she is very excited.

For her birthday, I did a crosstitch with her name on it, with beads and metallic threads. I did one for her sister Manon a few years ago, it is pink and yellow with a butterfly. (see picture at bottom).

Though I'm sure she won't be as thrilled with it as she was with Barry (because, let's face it, nothing can top a microwaveable elephant) I do hope she likes it as she gets older.

It is blue and purple with silver metallic thread, and white, purple, blue, grey beads.

Josée takes them to a framing store near their house. The lady always does an excellent job picking out the mats and frames.

NOEL, the first one I did. I gave it Josée for my first Christmas in France. It goes very well with her living room, which is mainly Bordeaux-red.

I have been crosstitching since I was about 10. I like to do it while watching tv. It relaxes me, and I like working with the colors and beads.

I started doing these patterns a few years ago, starting with Noel, then Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter. I started switching the colors, especially for Autumn, and then customizing the names and themes. As you can see, there are five basic patterns which I mix and match and change the colors and lettering as I want.

 Alain always asks "But what are we going to DO with them?" Just keep them. Give them away when I want. I also have done lots of Angel patterns, Christmas patterns, etc.


Autumn, with an apple

Winter, with snow

Spring, with a bouquet of yellow roses

Summer, with a basket of flowers

Bride (to commemorate my own wedding)

ManonPatriotic themes

America for Mom

France, for meme and pepe


It keeps me occupied, though I buy most of the materials (fabric, thread, beads, pattern) from a US online store. Even with shipping, it is cheaper than buying the materials here. I am currently working on two different patterns, LAVANDE for Lydia, Alain's aunt with lavender and olive green colors, and LEA for the daughter of the cleaning lady at work.

For anyone wondering, the designs are from the "Lavender & Lace" by Marilyn Leavitt-Imblum at Told in A Garden.

I love her designs and she also has a lot of angels, christmas patterns, etc.
jeudi 15 mars 2012
I took an early train to Paris, arriving around 11 am. I took the subway to my hotel, and dropped off my luggage at the front desk. It started to drizzle, so I brought my umbrella with me as I headed back out to explore a bit. Walked around the Opera section, then down to the Louvre and along the Champs-Elysée. There were more tourists than I expected. It was a long walk. I stopped in some fancy stores, bought some postcards, and had an expensive coffee before taking the subway back to my hotel. I met a fellow student for dinner, who was there for the C and D exams, and we ate at a Japanese restaurant across from my hotel.
The next morning, I tried to study in the morning, had lunch at McDonald's, then headed over to the exam hall. I saw some other students I knew from my class in Strasbourg two years ago.
The exam went okay, though I did panic a bit. I thought it was the same trap as last year, but it turns out it wasn't. The subject was a self-cooling barrel. I used the full four hours for the exam.
Afterwards, some of the other students and I walked back to the hotel and had dinner in the hotel. They were taking the C exam the next day, so it was an early night.
The next morning, I checked out of the hotel and went to the National Intellectual Property Office. I wanted to browse in the library, and I met two other friends for lunch, who are patent examiners with the office. I then left to head for my train at 4:20, and arrived in Marseille at 7:30 pm. Alain met me at the train station and we took the subway home. A short, but hopefully productive visit to Paris that I won't have to repeat next year.

I wasn't able to take many pictures, as the camera battery quickly died. (Alain's camera is at least 10 years old).
mardi 6 mars 2012
At VMI, there was an expression "two-oh and go", referring to Grade Point Average. Basically, you could graduate as long as your grade point average was 2.0 or higher, and for some, this was all that mattered.

Which right now is how I feel about my exam. Would I love to get 90 points like I did on the A exam and have my paper printed as the ideal answer? Of course. Would I be willing to wait another year for that or would I accept a 45, the minimum number of points I need, since I have passed (50+) two papers and have a compensatable grade (45 to 49) in one other exam?
Would much rather pass it this year, without a doubt.
I would take the C exam (48 points) again, to try and get 50+, but if I take it again and get a lower score, I lose my compensatability, and then would have to take it yet again. If I could try again and be guaranteed to at least keep the 48, I would, though still focusing on the B exam.

So, fingers crossed for mediocrity!
lundi 5 mars 2012
Tomorrow I leave for Paris on the TGV, my exam is Wednesday afternoon, 4 hours.
Last year I took the whole week before the exams off from work to focus on studying, plus the whole week of exams, and the two following weeks when I went to the US. This year, I only took this week off.
I am so tired of studying for this exam. I've done each of the past papers, from 1990to 2011, at least twice on my own, plus several three or more times during training sessions. I'm sick of it! Sick of it! Sick of it! Sick of it!

Please god let me pass this time because I can't take another year of this.

So right now I am reviewing my answers as compared to the best candidate's answer and the examiner's report. Then I have one more practice exam to do, along with preparing my suitcase.

I plan to relax tomorrow afternoon, wander around central Paris and visit some of the sites, then Wednesday morning do some light reviewing, the exam Wednesday afternoon, and then on Thursday go to the library at the National IP Office (Institut National de la Propriété Intellectuelle) and meet up with some people who were in my course in Strasbourg two years ago.
Then return Thursday evening to Marseille as Alain as his oral defense of his habilitation Friday morning.

I wanted him to come up and join me in Paris for a long weekend, but it was one of the few dates that he could give his defense.

Ah well, perhaps it is better that we go another time anyway, after everything is ove and we are not tired from written exams/preparations for oral exams.

Saturday we went to Casino and Carrefour near his work. We bought 12 bottles of champagne, six bottles of red wine, and Alain ordered some hors d'oeuvres for the obligatory party afterwards. This morning I bought some soda. I think this little party is going to cost us at least 500€ but we have to do it. Ah well. It will be worth it when his habilitation is over.

Five more days to hold up....

PS Oh yeah, plus the joy of hearing my neighbor's horrid hacking phlemgy constant cough, night and day. Jesus. What does she have, whooping cough? Go to the hospital already!
dimanche 4 mars 2012
Alain loves the movie "Arizona Dream". He has mentioned it to me several times, but I had never seen it. When my parents asked me what movie he might like for his birthday, I thought of it. They bought it for him, and we watched it on Sunday night. I think it is one of those movies that you either love or hate. Either you think it is a brilliant opus on the vagaries of life, or you think it is a bunch of weird piffle.
At about forty minutes into the film, I grabbed the case and casually glanced at it, really checking for how many minutes it lasts. I was displeased to find out it was listed at 2 hours and 15 minutes. Sigh, only an hour and a half to go.
At about 1:25, I started to play a game with myself. I would watch the movie, and try to guess when five minutes had passed, then look at the clock. To be quite disappointed that only two minutes had passed. It was a long two hours and fifteen minutes.
To those that have seen it, what is your opinion?

Mom and dad, do not watch this movie. I severely disliked it, and I know you will absolutely hate it. But Alain is happy you got it for him.
mardi 28 février 2012
I've decided to hire a cleaning lady.
Except that the cleaning lady is me.
I figure, instead of paying someone else to clean our apartment, I'll pay myself to do it.
I think 10€ net per hour is the going rate, don't you think?
I figure I am worth at least 10€ per hour.
As I have every-other Friday off, I'll use those Fridays to clean up the place and get those tiresome chores, like taking out the recycling, done, then have the entire weekend off.
The money I make will be for whatever I want – new clothes, perfume, makeup, accessories, a nice jewelery box, silk scarves, etc. And I certainly won't feel guilty about it!
Now the only problem is that 100€ = 10 hours of cleaning. Sigh.
dimanche 26 février 2012
For Sunday lunch today, Alain and I went to his parent's house, as his sister Lucie, her husband Nicolas, and their 3-year-old Anna would be there. (They were dropping her off at Grandma and Grandpa's for the week of school vacation). Manon was on a train to ski camp, so she wasn't there.
Everytime I see them, these two nieces hurt my feelings. I play with them, read them stories, ask them about their lives, bring them presents they will like. Do they like to sit on my lap? hell no! All they want to do is sit on Alain's lap. He tells them "Why don't you go sit on Megan's lap?" NOooooo!
I can't help it, it upsets me. It's like I am good enough when nobody else wants to play with them, but they can't sit two minutes on my lap without squirming off and running to someone else.
Alain thinks I make too big a deal out of it.
Both Lucie and Nicolas have said that their daughters prefer being with men. They think it is because he was often absent, off with the French army in other countries.
I try not to let it bother me, but it does.
I'm just tired of putting forth the effort only to be reject. Which is stupid, because it's a three year old. But after 6 years of Manon being exactly the same way, I'm tired of it.
I think I need to do some reverse-psychology- everytime Alain asks if they want to sit on my lap, I say "no, no, I don't want them to sit on my lap."
Yes, I know I am being petty.
Should I just not care?
Alain thinks when they are older they won't care about roughhousing with their uncle and will much rather play with makeup, perfumes, nailpolish, etc. with their aunt. But geez. They can't sit on my lap for two minutes after I spend hours reading them stories, playing with Polly Pocket, and all the rest?
samedi 18 février 2012
This afternoon I checked my cell phone, and saw a message sent last night, around 9 pm. It said that the code to validate the purchase for €988 was (six numbers). If I have any questions, please contact La Banque Postale.

Um, yeah I have a question. Who the heck has been trying to purchase something for 988€ with my credit card on the internet!!!

The banks here in France have implemented a secure internet purchase system. First you have to register your cell phone with the bank, which I did. Then, when you buy from certain sites, before the purchase is finalized, a six-digit code is sent to your cellphone. You then have to enter the code before the purchase goes through.

I have purchased a few items this way (though certainly not for almost 1000€) and knew that is what it was. I first checked the number to make sure it was indeed La Banque Postale, and not some site in the Caribean at 15€ a minute, and called. Indeed, someone had tried to purchase something with my credit information. Super.

I then had to call another number to cancel my card. On Monday I have to go to a police station and make a declaration of stolen information (I still have the card), and then send the copy of the declaration and the canceled card to the financial center who will then send me a new card. I also have to monitor my account, to make sure no other purchases were made, for example from sites that don't have such a verification system.

Le Sigh.

So now I will be without a credit card for approximately two weeks.

Man, I love the information age!

I am really curious as to what the person was trying to buy. The message didn't say what the purchase was for, nor what site.

So what would you buy (for fun) with 988€? (1300$)

I would either buy an IPAD with all the options, or else a Lancel Adjani purse. But no, I have to save it for boring stuff like taxes.
lundi 30 janvier 2012
Some people, when they run, get very happy, love the world, love being alive, love moving, love the wind, love the sun, love other people, love the birds chirping, love the light refreshing drizzle.

Not me. I am a very grumpy runner.

After a few weeks of admiring my new running shoes in the box, and a few too many comments from one Frenchman along the lines of "So, did you spend 83€ on new running shoes just to look at them?" (well yeah, at least until spring, duh)
I finally laced 'em up and headed out.
There is a track right nearby, which is usually not too crowded. The problem is, everyone else bothers me.
The father and son playing soccer and my occasionally having to kick the balls back their way mid-stride. The two women walking slightly faster than window shopping in the first two lanes. Move over! Geez. You would think that after being lapped by me 20 times passing a few inches from them, they would get the hint and move over say, to lanes 2 and 3, but nope.

The other runners with their headphones turned up REALLY LOUD. The kids playing with their remote-controlled trucks on the track. The person in the apartment building looking over the track with music turned up at 9 am on a Sunday.
The group of men standing in a circle taking up the entire width of the track, kicking around a soccer ball, whereas there is plenty of room in the center of the ring formed by the track for them to play, plus empty goal posts. I don't care. I run right through them, whereas other runners go over into the weeds to get around this group of men.
The track is for running.
I am on the track.
I am running.
Ergo, I have priority.

jeudi 26 janvier 2012
Saturday morning, I left the house around 10:30 to go grocery shopping (a five minute walk to the nearby Casino market). Alain left a few minutes after I did, to go to the public swimming pool, which opens at 11. He has taken to swimming 30 minutes or so once a week. It costs 2€ to swim. Strangely enough, he doesn't go to the one right next to our apartment, but to one farther away. He says that the pool is bigger and the hours are more convenient for him.
Anyway, before I left, I reminded him "Don't forget to take your keys. I should probably be back by the time you are done, but take them just in case."

After I finished my weekly grocery rounds, I trudged back home around 11:30 with the cart full of groceries. In front of the entrance to our apartment, I searched for my keys. I have each set of keys (apartment, work, and car) on a different ring that clips on to purse. I find it to be much easier that way. Anyway, I had the car key (keyring with the black tassel), my work keys (keyring with the pink tassel), but no house keys (keyring with the ivory tassel). I searched through my purse, but they were not in there. Alain wasn't back yet from swimming. I realized that I had left them on the buffet in the hallway next to the door when I returned home the night before, instead of clipping them to my purse.


I thought about what to do next. None of our neighbors has a set of keys to our apartment, so I couldn't ask them. I don't know where the pool was, so I couldn't go find Alain. Plus, I didn't want to drag my cart full of groceries all over the city. Our in-laws have a set of keys, but they live 30 minutes away. Nothing to do but wait. I debated where to wait. Do I buzz one of my neighbors so that they will let me in to the common area? Don't really just want to sit there. I'm sure our elderly neighbor would let me hang out in her apartment, but I didn't want to bother her. Besides, she might be out herself. I could go window-shopping, but that seemed more of a pain than anything else.
I decided to go to the park nearby. Well, "park" is a bit of an exaggeration. More like concrete area with a few benches and playground equipment for kids.
It was a nice day, sunny and a bit windy but not too bad.
There were just a few kids playing and their parents watching, and some teenagers making out one of the park benches.
Ahh, teenage love!!!
When absolutely anywhere is a suitable place for making out.
Between the dog park and the parking garage, next to the busy boulevard? Who cares! Let's neck!!

I called home and left a message on the answering machine, a rather sheepish "Hi dear. I forgot my keys. I'm at the park. Call me on the cellphone when you get home."

I sat on the bench for about half an hour, then went to the nearby cafe and ordered a coke. There was a group of four teenage guys, talking about stuff that I didn't really want to overhear.

At around 12:20, I headed back home, thinking surely he must be getting back soon.
Sure enough, he was home, and had called the cellphone twice (I hadn't heard it).
Good thing I reminded him to take his keys or else we would have been driving out to see his parents!

I still think we should give a set of keys to our neighbor. Or maybe install some sort of automatic lock where you have to just key in a code. Or an eye scan. That would be cool. And not expensive at all.
mardi 24 janvier 2012
When I was seven, my parents bought me a male golden retrievor puppy.
They asked me what I think we should name him (big mistake).

I said


which, I think, was a perfectly accurate name.

(<- me with Sunny)

They said no. (and learned a valuable lesson - never ask a child what to name a puppy. Which of course has a corrolary- never ask older children what to name the new baby. Which goes double if they are in a Lord of the Rings Phase.

Here's to not having some weird elf name!!)

Anyway, we settled on Barney. This was, mind you, before the days of the big purple dinosaur.

(Grandma Eleanor with Barney on the left and Sunny on the right)

So "Sandball", which could have been transformed into the acceptable golden retrievor name "Sandy" (though it would look a bit funny on the purebreed Kennel Club papers), was out.

Barney Trievor Smith

Now that is one heck of a prestigious dog name.

We took him down to Ecuador with us, where he cheerfully refreshed the gene pool, and we got another puppy from the first litter.

This time, we named him

Sundance Kid de la Cumbré Smith

(de la Cumbré was added on as the name of the street he was born on).

So we had Barney and Sunny, father and son. They were great pals. We brought them back to Colorado with us when we left Ecuador.

Barney passed away at the age of eight, and Sunny passed away at the age of 12, ten years ago this month.

Miss you, you big balls of sand.
dimanche 15 janvier 2012
I did it. I finally caved and joined facebook.

I resisted for a long time.

Not because I was afraid of over-sharing (I have a blog for goodness sake) or of compromising pictures of me (I am rarely in such situations), it was mainly that I didn't want to have to deal with "do I friend this person or not? Just because we were in the same high school class, will they be offended if I don't? I haven't talked to them since 12th grade chemistry class. I didn't even know they got married and had twins."


"Why hasn't she accepted my friend request? She friended all the other girls on our college cheerleading squad, why not me?!?!"

Or worse, from ex-boyfriends that broke your heart. "If I don't accept his request, then it might show that I'm not over him, but if I do accept, then that means I am okay with how he treated me, and I'll have to look at the photos of him and his new girlfriend. Okay, maybe I'm not as over it as I thought. I certainly don't want to be with him again, but ahhh... what to do, what to do, do I want to share with him the details of my new life?"

What about ex-employers, current employers, former teachers, and all the rest? All these issues that weren't ten years ago. If someone writes on my wall, am I obligated to write on theirs?

I just don't know.
samedi 7 janvier 2012
For Christmas "Père Noël" brought Anna (three in March) this stuffed animal.
Père Noël (or rather, Tata Noël) saw a hut at the Christmas Market in Aix-en-Provence selling a zoo of such stuffed animals- pig, bear, tiger, lion, monkey, elephant, etc. Not just any stuffed animal, oh no. They are filled with beads or something, lavender and other stuff, that smell nice. You can put the stuffed animal in the microwave for a few minutes, and it heats up and smells nice.
I chose the elephant, (whoops, Tata Noël chose the elephant) as Manon, Anna's older sister, loved elephants, so like sister like sister it was figured.
The one thing that I don't like about Christmas here in France is that all Christmas presents come from Père Noël, rather than just some that are received at home versus other gifts that come from relatives. Oh no. Here in France, the entire family is required to keep up the farce "Père Noël left this at our house for you..." Whatever.
Anyway, Anna ripped open her present and screamed "Barry!" Apparently, it is a character in a cartoon.
She was quite happy, carrying him around by his trunk all New Year's Day, which made me cringe. I kept telling her "hold him by his body, not by his ear or his trunk." I had visions of him ripping open and the beads pouring out all over the floor.
I told her that he could be heated in the microwave, and she was very excited to try it out.
She kept saying "on va chauffer barry". (we're going to heat Barry).
She was very cute, sitting on Alain's lap, and he was playing with her, making Barry dance and sing "Je suis Barry, babababa..."
Today, I called Lucie, Alain's sister, and asked how Anna liked Barry. She said that she adores him, that it is her new nightime ritual- they put Barry in the microwave and when the microwave bings, she says "Ca y est! Barry est prêt!"
(This is it! Barry is ready!)
Ah, to be a kid again.
mercredi 4 janvier 2012
Ahh, the Dark Ages. How I don't miss thee.
That period of time between the holidays and spring, when it is still dark and cold out, with nothing to look forward to except the European Qualifying Exam.

My external hard drive went kaput, when I arrived at the parking garage this morning there was a car blocking the entrance (didn't put their parking brake on I guess) causing a long line of cars needing to back up and go the other way. Huge traffic jam on the way home. I finally just parked and walked home, about 15 minutes. JUST COULDN'T SIT THERE ANOTHER MINUTE, after having seen several cycles of the stop light and couldn't take it another minute. Decided to stop by McDonald's for a quick bite as Alain is away at karate. One of those times when you peek in, see there is almost no line, then end up waiting half an hour. There were three people at three different tellers, and there was one woman in the center, forming a sort of "common line" like people do, to wait for all three spots. I stood behind her. She then went to order, and another guy came in, didn't get the "common line" concept and went behind the guy still ordering on the right. I edged in front of him, and then the guy who was ordering commented "I guess some people have different cultures." That pissed me off, so I told him off. My feet were hurting from walking half a mile in my heels, I was tired, irritated, and didn't want to be told off by some guy who thinks because I speak with an accent he is better than I am.

Came home all teary-eyed for no good reason, just because.

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